The environment people live in, their socio-economic status, lifestyle and cultural background can have a major impact on their health status. The World Health Organization estimates that, according to numerous studies, social determinants of health (SDH) account for between 30-55% of health outcomes.
In addition to the influences of SDH, inequity in healthcare access and delivery are widely-recognised issues. Most health systems struggle to engage with so-called hard-to-reach populations, such as minorities, people suffering with substance abuse or mental illness and those suffering from homelessness. They also struggle to properly support people living in rural or remote locations.
Meeting people where they are, with technology that provides more ways to interact with the health system and services tailored to people’s needs will help.
Technology is a supportive tool
Clinicians are typically well aware that much of their patient’s needs derive from their socioeconomic status or the fact they are part of a marginalised group, who may have limited access to the necessities of life and struggle to access the health system. However, they have few tools to deal with these issues, even when they are the root cause of their patient’s illnesses. This leaves clinicians in an unenviable position of knowing what needs to be done and being unable to help, likely contributing to the burnout we discussed previously.
Technology can be a supportive tool. Leveraging an all-encompassing population engagement solution like a digital front door can make healthcare interactions easier and provide people with more options that are appropriate to them. This could be by, for instance, enabling access using a laptop or mobile device, coupling a website with a call centre, having kiosks in community centres or emergency departments, or providing remote monitoring devices.
Breaking down traditional access barriers
A digital front door enables health systems to adapt services so that they are tailored to the needs of different populations. For example, working with community groups to ensure the information provided is culturally appropriate or providing translators to cater to people’s language preferences. This, along with providing multiple access points, helps to break down some of the traditional barriers that many people face when trying to navigate complex health systems.
In our previous blog, we discussed how a digital front door supports all healthcare interactions. In this context, it also becomes a tool for clinicians to leverage to make progress in supporting all patients.
A common challenge is trying to treat someone with no fixed address who may struggle to engage with the health system. Often these patients can end up in the emergency department. Making better use of well-designed apps and integrating tailored programmes and social services in a single channel means finding support is much easier. Good examples include trying to find the nearest shelter or information on how to get help with substance abuse.
Meeting people where they are
Health equity and inclusion are key components of a digital front door solution’s design to meet people where they are now. Whilst it may not solve all the challenges clinical teams face, taking this significant step to improving access and engagement is a huge expansion of what is currently available.
Leveraging the power of smart technology solutions that ensure the right patients are being treated in the right place and at the right time will ultimately ensure every person receives the best possible care.
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